Taoiseach to launch campaign for pro-repeal FG members

Leo Varadkar to hold an event calling for a ‘Yes’ vote in Eighth Amendment referendum

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is to launch a campaign for Fine Gael members in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment.  File photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is to launch a campaign for Fine Gael members in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment. File photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is to launch a campaign for Fine Gael members in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment.

Mr Varadkar and a number of senior Ministers will hold an event this weekend outlining why they believe people should vote “Yes” in the forthcoming referendum on the Amendment.

It is understood Mr Varadkar has invited all members of the parliamentary party who support repealing the Eighth Amendment, also known as Article 40.3.3, to participate in the event and the campaign.

The decision may cause some friction within the party, as there are many Fine Gael TDs and Senators who are opposed to repealing the Constitutional provision, which places the life of the unborn on an equal footing to the life of the mother.

Fine Gael cannot adopt an official party position because members have been afforded a freedom of conscience vote on issues to do with the referendum.

The party will not put up posters or distribute literature for the referendum, but those members in favour of repeal will work together for a “Yes” vote.

Meanwhile, The Irish Times has learned RTÉ is to host two debates on the referendum in the final 10 days of the campaign.

RTÉ is also expected to broadcast a discussion on the referendum on The Late Late Show within a matter of weeks.

A spokeswoman for RTÉ said the exact formats for the debates are not yet known, but it is anticipated they will follow the same format as the debates held ahead of the same-sex marriage referendum.

Strict guidelines

The broadcaster is also enforcing strict guidelines for contributors during the referendum campaign. TDs and Senators have been told they can wear political or campaign badges, emblems and clothing during TV and radio appearances but only if the vote is the only thing being debated on that programme.

In a letter to all Oireachtas members, RTÉ says emblems and slogan-bearing clothing are allowed in these instances as their views can be debated and challenged by the presenter.

The letter says that allowing such clothing and emblems in other instances would result in RTÉ failing in its duties.

In the letter, RTÉ head of broadcast compliance David McKenna writes: “We . . . ask you, out of respect for the principle of fair and impartial broadcasting, not to wear badges, emblems or slogans which would breach that principle when you are a guest contributor and the topic is not that of the referendum or clearly associated matters.”

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